There were approximately 37,000 fans that walked through the Target Field gates on Saturday.
And I was one of them.
The first official baseball game was played on Saturday at the new Twins’ stadium. But instead of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau taking the field, the Minnesota Golden Gopher baseball team faced Louisiana Tech.
It marked the first time the general public was allowed in the sparkling stadium, and I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity.
Yes, it was cold.
But it was worth it.
In the Cities to cover the state boys’ basketball tournament, I first heard of Minnesota’s game from Chad Knutson, who told me about the sweet deal. Chad, who later visited the field himself, and caught a foul ball, told me that for a mere $2, the Gophers were opening up the stadium, with all the proceeds going to the Twins Community Fund.
I had walked up to the gates of Target Field the night before, but hadn’t been able to get inside.
Walking up to the gates this time, I was full of excitement. I had been to the Metrodome quite a few times for Twins games, and this marked a historic event.
After getting through the gate, I was like a kid in a candy store.
The grass was green and everything was shiny and new. The corridors were wide, the vendors were selling new food and everywhere I looked, someone was taking a picture, making memories of this day.
The game wasn’t great, Minnesota lost 9-1, but the atmosphere was. It marked the second largest crowd to ever watch a college baseball game. I use the term watch, but not many people were paying attention to the game. Most of us were wandering around, taking in the sights.
I first walked around the stadium, pausing to take a few photos. There are no seats in center field. Instead, there is a place to stand for a moment and watch the action.
I stood there, snapping a few photos. But then, I was curious to see the rest of the place. I went up. Way up. I sat in the very top row of bleachers in left field. It was there I watched the first pitch every thrown.
At 1:08 p.m., Minnesota’s TJ Oakes delivered a ball to Kyle Roliard, and I was there to see it.
Oakes might be a familiar name to some. His father is a pitching coach for the Gophers, and his older brother enjoyed a nice career at the U. But Oakes has also seen his fair share of teams from southwest Minnesota, especially Pipestone Area. I watched as Oakes threw against the Arrows in a state baseball game. I watched as Nathan Alfson hit a home run off Oakes in the state legion tournament. But on Saturday, Oakes was throwing a historic first pitch.
After seeing everything from the Legend’s Club to the Champions’ Club, I had only one more item that generated my curiosity — the ballpark hot dogs.
With the big news recently that the hotdogs would no longer be Hormel, I had to try a Schweigert dog. It was delicious.
But what impressed, and even surprised me, was the different concession choices. From full-fledge restaurants to steak sandwiches, state fair food and even different soup varieties, Twins fan won’t have any problem finding something to delight their palate.
I will forever remember the first day of Target Field. The first pitch. The sight of green grass. The 5,800 square foot video board. Even the celebration sign where Minnie and Paul will shake hands across the Mississippi River every time the Twins hit a home run. Even though a Minnesota team hasn’t won in the stadium yet, there will no doubt be many victories in this state of the art stadium.
And I can’t wait to go back.